The Grays River Covered Bridge is located near the town of Grays River in Wahkiakum County, Washington. Located just south of Washington State Route 4 (WA 4), the Grays River Covered Bridge was the last historic covered bridge in Washington State that could handle motor vehicle traffic. The 158-foot-long and 14-foot-wide Howe truss covered bridge crosses Grays River, facilitating the transportation of dairy and lumber products from western Wahkiakum County. The land surrounding the covered bridge is Ahlberg Park, named for an early resident who was instrumental in getting the covered bridge constructed.
The covered bridge was built in 1905 by Hans P. Ahlberg, a Swedish immigrant and community leader who had founded the Grays River Grange in 1901, who was also a local farmer whose family owned property on both sides of the river. Local grange members and farmers lobbied Wahkiakum County commissioners to build a bridge that would allow horses, carriages, and wagons to cross the river, which the county agreed to build for $2,615.00. Much of the work on the covered bridge was done by residents whose labor counted toward their tax assessments, which was a common practice in the early 1900s. The bridge was covered in 1906 because the bridge planks were too slick for livestock to cross safely, owing to the high amounts of annual precipitation that falls upon southwestern Washington State, with the roof of the covered bridge initially built with cedar shingles and tin.
The Grays River Covered Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. In 1988, the bridge received a major restoration and reconstruction. Since the bridge was in disrepair at that time and was at risk of being torn down, residents raised funds to restore the bridge. The cost of restoration was $295,980 and the new bridge included some steel beams with wood veneer to help give it an original look. The bridge was rededicated in 1989 for public use.
The covered bridge has been managed by the Grays River Grange since 2011, which is tasked with raising funds for maintenance and connecting the local community by way of the bridge. It is the site of a popular Covered Bridge Festival that takes place every summer. My visit to the Grays River Covered Bridge allowed me to take in the idyllic surroundings of this Washington State icon of yesteryear, thanks to the work and dedication of those who have had a stake in keeping the bridge intact.
How to Get There:
Sources and Links:
Clatsop News - Grays River Covered Bridge: History Preserved
Chinook Observer - New park will encompass Grays River covered bridge (May 15, 2007)
The Historical Marker Database - Grays River Covered Bridge
The Historical Marker Database - Ahlberg Park At the Historic Grays River Covered Bridge
Wahkiakum Chamber of Commerce - Grays River
The Columbia River "A Photographic Journey" - Grays River, Washington
DaleJTravis.com - Washington Covered Bridges